Kingwell: “A populist wake-up call for universities”

Philosopher Mark Kingwell in Academic Matters:

We are losing when it comes to reason and critical intelligence and civility. We are losing when it comes to the basic justification of what we [academics] do. We are losing on defending universities as forces for good.

The university is a public or collective good, not just a good for the (too often careerist) individual “users” of the system. At the extreme, an utterly corrosive consumerism takes hold.

I will say it again: it is despicable to enjoy the fruits of academic success and not feel a profound sense of obligation. People who exist outside our bubble feel this too: hence the anger, the contempt, the disdain—and, maybe worst of all, the indifference. Still, we are all citizens together, and the world of the university is as real as anything else that transpires here in the sublunary realm. There is a call to community audible underneath all the hostility.

As a specialized culture within the larger body politic, the university, whatever its shortcomings, supports the long-term welfare and betterment of the broader society that sustains it.


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